Monday, 29 September 2014

The Front (1976)




This was a first watch for me.

Yes you read right, a first watch not a rewatch. I know, I'm a huge Woody Allen fan and a committed socialist who, at 34, has only just got round to seeing this.

Hey, what can I tell ya?



The Front is a film from that wonderful, socially conscious director Martin Ritt and that equally wonderful, socially conscious writer, Walter Bernstein. It sees auteur Woody Allen as an actor for hire, in his straight(ish) debut, playing - somewhat ironically - a front for hire for blacklisted communist sympathising writers of 50s America. 

Allen's character Howard Prince may come from the pen of Bernstein but it's easy to view it as an extension of the familiar Allen persona. Prince is a wisecracking cowardly loser, distinctly small time. Through accepting the adulation for better men who must remain in the shadows on account of the paranoid and ignorant McCarthy witch hunts this small time chancer initially becomes even smaller, before unexpectedly shining nobly in the final reel.



It's a well crafted tale of the rise, fall and rise again from Ritt and Bernstein that sees Prince - and no doubt possibly some viewers - have their eyes opened to the injustice of the time. Naturally the politics and sentiment of the film immediately find favour with me and I must confess my admiration increases to near teary eyed levels when the closing credits reveal that not only were Ritt and Bernstein blacklisted in the 50s (which I was aware of) but so too were the film's stars Zero Mostel, Herschal Bernardi and Lloyd Gough. Mostel's character in particular - whose fall, seen through the example of him taking a significant cut in wages to perform at one club, was based on fact - has an extra added dimension of poignancy with the knowledge that he faced such an ordeal in reality.



I must also mention Dave Grusin's simple yet utterly effective two note piano soundtrack in places - really haunting.



I think I'll watch this again very soon. I can't help but feel it will impress even more on a second watch.

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